For the love of science (fiction)
The Hugo Awards for science fiction were announced this weekend. Sometimes ridiculed, nowadays better accepted: science fiction helps us imagine futures worth fighting for (or against). Our science and technology communications agency would not exist without the genre of science fiction.
This weekend, the Hugo Awards for science fiction were announced at the World Science Fiction Conference (Worldcon) in Chengdu, China. Both the shortlist of candidates and the final winners are picked by Worldcon members – including yours truly. If you want a very opinionated hot tip: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time trilogy, awarded the Hugo for the best book series, was by far the most deserving of the winners. Sentient space spider cultures FTW!
I have been a die-hard fan of science fiction ever since I was a teenager: Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy were formative experiences. It was about broadening the scope of possibility and negotiating the limits of humanity. It was about feeling responsible for a society dozens of millennia in the future while recognizing our own smallness within the existence’s vastness.
Fangirling genre fiction might sound like the very definition of an extracurricular topic not suited for serious business communication. Yet this hobby has had a massive impact on my work and career. I have gravitated towards people and organizations that take the fiction out of science fiction; I have honed my own storytelling skills by holding on to and devouring the fiction.
In short: Maend is an outcome of this passion.
Science fiction is sometimes criticized for hubris, of impractical lofty ideas that put man(kind) on a pedestal. Sure, it’s a large genre with all kinds of writers and ideas. We do have the masculine conquerors and alien war splatter, but we also have the heart-wrenching dips into guilt (Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead) and mental health challenges (Emma Newman’s Planetfall series). Stories of people thrown into alien surroundings give us the opportunity to explore the smallest common nominator of humanity. The face staring back at us in the mirror may inspire both hubris or despair, but we should still dare to look.
I’ll be honest with you: I’m a techno-optimist. I am smitten with the utopia world of Iain Banks’ Culture series, not heeding the voices questioning the AI ship minds that loom over humanity in these stories. It’s much easier to get me excited about a Mars colony than reducing my carbon footprint during grocery shopping. Which is not an entirely good thing.
Folks, this is why you work with other people: my co-founder, Ave, keeps me grounded. She has shown me it’s possible to love science without believing it will absolve us of all sin. I might learn that, too, one day.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of science fiction books (and movies and TV shows) on my to-do list.